Guardianship: A Basic Understanding for Parents
As a parent you make many decisions on behalf of your minor child. However, once your child turns 18 you no longer have the legal authority to do so. Having a child with special needs, a parent is faced with the decision of how best to continue to provide care. If your child cannot make financial decisions for themselves, if they are not in a position to ensure that they receive appropriate medical care, or they are unable to manage some of the daily tasks of life, then a difficult decision must be made.
Were you aware that once your child turns 18 you no longer have the legal authority:
- To continue managing your child’s finances or to work with a financial institution on their behalf
- To obtain insurance information or coordinate care
- To work with health care professionals to make medical decisions or maintain access to their health records
- Have access to the child’s educational records or enroll them in school.
In the event that any of the issues above are true then guardianship may be an appropriate action to protect your child. Guardianship is the legal relationship created when a guardian is appointed to care for an adult with a disability, who by reason of their disability, cannot care for themselves.
By establishing guardianship you have the ability to aid your child in these important decisions. In addition, it allows a parent to protect a child who may, unfortunately, become a target of others. This can be particularly important in regards to financial matters.
This does not mean that guardianship is always appropriate. For parents of a child with special needs approaching age 18, guardianship may be the most hotly debated topic in the home. Why the debate? By having a guardian or conservator appointed, some or even all of a person with disabilities rights are removed. It is not a decision to be taken lightly, and ultimately, it may be one of the most important decisions you make when providing ongoing care for your child.
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